Arizona’s Lawyers Sue To Stop Domestic Benefits During Court Decision

BrewerJan Not content to battle just the health care law and illegal immigration policy, lawyers for the state of Arizona are now expanding their efforts to eliminate that state's domestic partner benefits.

A judge ruled last year that the state must continue paying the benefits while courts decide the legality of a Republican and Gov. Jan Brewer-led effort to end the policy, enacted while Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was governor.

According to the Copper State's attorneys, though, the benefits need to be stopped during the proceedings to help the state save money:

Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube contends that U.S. District Judge John Sedwick was wrong in issuing an injunction last year barring the state from altering its benefits package.

That ruling requires Arizona to keep funding the coverage until there is a final ruling, something that could take years.

State lawmakers voted to end the benefits as a method of saving money.

Grube said that, in deciding whether to issue an injunction, Sedwick was required to consider not only the claims of harm to the people losing the benefits but also the harm to the state of being required to maintain them. But Grube said Sedwick was "explicitly dismissive" of evidence presented by the state about the cost burden on taxpayers of continuing to provide coverage.

Here's an idea: Arizona's lawyers could stop filing politically motivated lawsuits that cost untold amounts of time, money and, frankly, make the rest of the state look bad. It's just common sense.


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

TEXAS: Repeal Of Domestic Partners Law Hurts El Paso’s Straight Retirees

In November, El Paso’s Pastor Tom Brown organized a successful ballot measure repealing the city’s domestic partners benefits ordinance. But due to its murky wording, the new law may also cut insurance for retired cops and firefighters, among other city workers. All because 19 dirty homos were able to insure their partners.

The measure was aimed at gay workers and their partners. The wording of the proposal, however, was vague, asking El Paso residents to endorse “traditional family values” by limiting benefits to “city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.” So when 55% of the voters approved the measure on Election Day, they eliminated coverage for some 200 people who don’t fit that description—among them elected officials, who aren’t technically city employees, and many former city workers, the city says. Now, officials are weighing what to do. Last month, the city council decided not to use its authority to repeal what is now a city law. On Tuesday, it agreed to allow the city attorney to come up with ways to amend the ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1. But some members warned that they would vote against any proposal that restores benefits for retirees and not for domestic partners.

The local police union is planning a lawsuit against the city. Pastor Brown says if El Paso’s city council attempts to overturn the repeal, he’ll launch a ballot measure stripping them of that power.

(Tipped by JMG reader Melissa)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

News: Halloween, Domestic Violence, Glenn Burke, Ricky Martin

 road Ricky Martin shifts into PR gear for his new book which hits shelves later this week. On Wednesday morning he'll make an appearance on The View but, most notably, his interview with Oprah Winfrey will air the day before.

Gaga  road Lady Gaga dresses up as a little monster for Halloween.

 road Celebrities get in the Halloween spirit.

 road Stephen Fry claims to know straight women: "I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want. Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, 'Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!' But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?"

 road Julianne Moore on gay parents: "I really think a two-parent family is the goal. I think whether they are men or women, or a man and a woman it's all pretty good."

 road Hate crime: wig snatched off of Fargo drag performer JustNtyme's head after assailant calls him a "faggot."

 road Courage Campaign mounts drive against Texas television station for its homophobic newscast about marriage equality.

 road 1,000 protest gay pride in Moscow.

Volc  road Amazing photos of Mount Merapi erupting yesterday in Indonesia.

 road 30,000 people in Taiwan celebrate gay pride.

 road Is this really a time traveller walking in front of Grauman’s Chinese theater during the premiere of the Charlie Chaplin movie, “The Circus?”

 road Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer's movie night.

 road The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs releases report on LGBT domestic partner violence in the United States: "The report found that LGBTQ domestic/intimate partner violence reports rose 15% since 2008 and is a pervasive social problem at a time when LGBTQ-specific programs were losing staff or closing altogether due to the economic crisis. In 2009, NCAVP documented 6 murders related to LGBTQ domestic/intimate partner violence, representing a 50% rise since 2007."

 road Watch the trailer for Out: The Glenn Burke Story, a documentary about the first openly gay MLB player.

 road Zach Galifianakis smoked during a live taping of Real Time with Bill Maher – and I don't mean a cigarette.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

How Is Chile’s Government Cracking Down On Domestic Abuse? By Calling Violent Husbands ‘Faggots’

A federal Chilean public awareness campaign to fight domestic violence has a wonderful way of convincing macho men not to beat their wives: call them faggots. How creative!

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  admin

Count Bryan ‘gay sex is a form of domestic terrorism’ Fischer in the Carl Paladino fan club

NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has found himself a public supporter. This new voice of solidarity comes in the form of the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, a man who has claimed that “homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews,” who’s said “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” who has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence, has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism,” who’s said only gays were savage enough for Hitler, has compared gays to heroin abusers, has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers, who once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day, and who has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers.

Take it (way, way) away, Bryan:

Everything – every single thing – that Paladino said about the homosexual lifestyle yesterday was dead on the money. What he said is so true and so evident and so obvious that the real 6A00D8341C503453Ef01310F3588E8970Ccontroversy here is that there is any controversy at all.

The fact that homosexual activists will now bare their fangs, veritably dripping saliva as they go for Paladino’s carotid artery, and will do so with the full-throated blessing of the out-of-the-mainstream media, only illustrates the enormously dangerous clout these purveyors of perversity have been given in our culture.

Paladino properly shamed Cuomo for marching in New York’s gay pride parade with his two daughters, saying, “that’s not the kind of example we should be showing our children.”

Referring to the unconscionable way impressionable young children are being indoctrinated (rather than educated) in our public schools, he said, “I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option – it isn’t.”

He affirmed unapologetically that “marriage is between a man and a woman. Period,” and vowed to veto any same-sex marriage bill that reaches his desk on the grounds that it would be “immoral legislation.” He spoke the simple truth when he said that our children “would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family.” Good for him.

In the written remarks he prepared for delivery to Hasidic Jewish leaders, he added that there is “nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

There frankly is no other kind of homosexual than the dysfunctional kind. Homosexuals are dysfunctional by the very nature of the aberrant sexual conduct in which they engage. As the Roman Catholic Church correctly says, homosexual behavior is “intrinsically disordered.”

Bryan Fischer: Carl Paladino gets right up in the grill of homosexual activists [AFA]

Oh, you’re so silly, Mr. Fischer. We gay activists aren’t baring our fangs. Because why would we, when baring both your and Mr. Paladino’s intense hostility for a vibrant population sect is far more advantageous to our equality fight?




Good As You

—  John Wright

Lawsuit Filed Challenging Domestic Partner Registry in Wisconsin

Less than two months after the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage, a conservative group has filed suit challenging the state's domestic partner registry, saying it violates that ban.

Wisconsin The AP reports:

"The lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court by members of Wisconsin Family Action contends the registry creates a legal status substantially similar to that of marriage.
Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, proposed the registry as a means of granting same-sex couples more legal rights, such as the right to visit each other in hospitals, make end-of-life decisions and inherit each other’s property. The Democratic-controlled Legislature approved the registry and it went into effect in August 2009. By the end of the year 1,329 couples had signed up.
The same-sex marriage ban, actively pushed by the same group bringing the lawsuit against the registry, was added to the constitution by voters in 2006."

Fair Wisconsin executive director Katie Belanger says that while 200 benefits are guaranteed to heterosexual couples through marriage, same-sex couples only get 43 of those benefits through domestic partner registry:

"These are the most basic, critical things that couples need to have to take care of one another."


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright